The Truth is… I am Iron Man!

by Jovit D. Caballero

It is safe to say that the name ‘Pio Tumpang’ might be quite familiar to all NLEX Corporation employees. For many, this 50-yr old General Services Specialist from Antipolo, a loving husband, and a responsible father to his three children, is known as the company’s “Messenger of Sad News” since he is currently tasked to disseminate information about the passing of either a co-employee or any of its immediate family member. But for people who know him on a personal level, they consider this triathlete as the “Iron Man of NLEX”.

As fast as his running prowess and manner of speaking, little did we know that his younger years were also fast-paced as he constantly needed to adapt to all the challenges life threw at him. Sir Pio was brought up by his farmer parents in their home province in the Bicol Region together with his other 13 siblings, 2 of which died at a young age. Since Catanduanes island is surrounded by the waters of the Philippine Sea, his swimming abilities were tested whenever he and his brothers needed to catch fish for their everyday meal.

During his elementary days, he was diagnosed with asthma, which prevented him from being as active as his peers back then. He considered it a weakness that he needed to overcome, and this triggered him to improve his health and engage himself in different physical activities. At the Catanduanes National High School, he discovered his passion for running. He joined several running events such as inter-school Olympics, provincial meets, and national fun run events like the Milo Marathon.

When he entered college, his enthusiasm for athletics continued. He was accepted as a scholar at Catanduanes College and took up an advanced ROTC course which has a high demand for physical fitness. Due to financial incapacity, his parents advised him to stop his studies. However, Sir Pio told himself that nothing would stop him to pursue his dreams for himself and his family. He decided to explore different jobs that might help him fund his school needs. He applied as a security guard on a commercial establishment, he learned to do all the farm work, he even sold his self-made ice cream, and he drove a ‘trysikad’ that he borrowed from his brother-in-law. He also maximized this ‘trysikad’ by using it as his free ride going to school and eventually opened opportunities for him to explore cycling as his new-found hobby.

After his graduation, Sir Pio decided to try his fortune in Manila and entered the training for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Unfortunately, it was postponed because, during that time, President Estrada commanded a full-out war in Mindanao versus the Abu Sayyaf Group.

He then applied as a security guard at the Goldlink Security Agency which catered to the First Philippine Infrastructure Development Corporation handling the construction of the Subic Freeport Expressway. During those times, he started inviting his co-workers to join him in his sports activities and started his advocacy for physical health.

After a few years of service as a security guard, he was hired as an office clerk at NLEX Corporation (formerly known as Manila North Tollways Corporation). He was then promoted to a Human Resources Administrator and assigned to various tasks such as timekeeping, purchasing, and processing of all government-related employee benefits. Since his NLEX employment and even up to this date, he is known for participating, spearheading, and coaching most sports activities in the company, such as the Tollways Olympics and MVP Olympics. He also encourages other employees and scouts external athletes who may contribute to the success of the Tollways Group for these events.

Throughout his journey in sports, he has been a consistent participant and achiever in various national and international events. In 2016, he joined the 110-km Ultra Marathon held in Bicol Region and started to be engaged in the Bike King Philippines and Power Man Duathlon until 2019. Just recently, he led the MPTC team in the Iron Man Cebu Triathlon Event where the group finished 9th place among the 400 participating teams. According to Sir Pio, joining the Iron Man event caused priceless happiness because he brought pride to the company while fulfilling every triathlete’s dream.

Before ending the interview, he was asked about a certain experience that made him the ‘Iron Man’ that he is today. This was when he became emotional and almost burst into tears.

He can still remember that rainy day clearly when his whole family was helpless during the 1995 typhoon ‘Rosing’. It hardly hit the province of Catanduanes, the “Land of the Howling Winds”. Together with his parents and 9 other siblings who resided with them during that time, they witnessed how the strong winds and heavy downpour gradually destroyed their hard-earned home. With only the Narra dining table as their remaining protection from the disaster, they just surrendered everything and held each other’s hands. In God’s grace, the whole family survived the life-threatening calamity. Up to this day, the whole family still remembers every second of that setback, and this will always be their reminder of how grateful they shall be for the rest of their lives.

“With all the hardships I’ve been through, no difficult training will ever tire me now. Because the truth is… I AM IRON MAN!”. Indeed, just like our modern world superhero whose armor and weapons define power, Sir Pio is surely an inspirational avenger in his own rights who stands up for his beliefs and does things not just for himself but for others.

Jovit D. Caballero, Tollways Development and Engineering. Jovit entered the company as a TAP trainee in 2014 and is currently assigned as a Contracts Engineer. He is a photography hobbyist who wants to explore his artistic and creative side. He is a foodie who is also a big fan of reality and game shows. As an adventurous guy, he is open to trying new things and ultimately achieves his goal to travel the world. G?